Researchers at the National Research Institute on Food and Nutrition have reported that Pycnogenola, an antioxidant plant extract from the bark of the French maritime pine tree, is effective for reducing inflammation and soothing pain associated with various health problems. The institute's report was published in International Immunopharmacology.
The pine tree is grown in a mono-species forest over the coastal region of Southwest France. The extract represents a natural blend of genetically programmed bioflavonoids including catechin, epicatechin, taxifolin, monomers, dimers of catechin and epicatechin, oligomeric procyanidnins and phenolic fruit acids such as ferulic acid and caffeic acid.
Raffaella Canali, PhD, and his colleagues at the institute found that the pine extract inhibits the generation of COX-2 and 5-LOX, two naturally occurring enzymes associated with a host of inflammatory conditions.
The study investigated healthy volunteers ranging from ages 35-50, who consumed tablets containing the pine extract (150 mg) for five consecutive days in the morning before breakfast. Blood was drawn before and after supplementation to investigate how immune cells respond towards pro-inflammatory stimuli. The behavior of specific white blood cells (leukocytes) for generating a repertoire of enzymes in inflammatory condition was tested by real-time PCR. The gene expression of enzymes COX-2, 5-LOX, FLAP and COX-1 were monitored and the products these enzymes generate, prostaglandins and leukotrienes, were quantified.
A baseline study revealed that the volunteers' immune cells rapidly initiated production of COX-2, 5-LOX and FLAP enzymes upon pro-inflammatory stimulation. Taking the extract in pill form almost entirely subdued COX-2, 5-LOX and FLAP induction in the immune cells of volunteers. Control studies showed that the pine extract did not have an effect on generation of the COX-1 enzyme, thus the potential for typical NSAID side effects is defied.
While the pine extract is not a COX-2-specific inhibitor; it blocks the COX-2 enzyme production during inflammation only. There are COX-2 enzymes not involved in inflammation in other organs such as the kidneys, where it has important physiologic functions.
In addition to the reduction of inflammation and pain associated with various health problems, the pine extract also has been shown to inhibit inflammation in several dysmenorrhoea studies and also a reduction in skin inflammation related to sunburn and acne. Although the pine extract is currently generally regarded as safe in the United States for food and beverage applications, perhaps it can find a future in topical applications.
aPycnogenol is a registered trademark of Horphag Research Ltd, St. Peter Port , Guernsey.